As a veteran marathon participant, Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey understands that a steady stride and stalwart work ethic are keys to running a successful race.
During a trio of State of the City addresses this month, Towey has emphasized the same consistent pace when it comes to municipal policy.
Around 30 attendees gathered for last week’s presentation at Seth Woodard Elementary School, a speech in which Towey reviewed a list of 2010 highlights while looking ahead to an inventory of goals, challenges and initiatives the city faces in 2011 and beyond.
The mayor acknowledged “the dynamic change” that took place at City Hall as last year began, a transition that featured four new representatives of the City Council, including himself, Dean Grafos, Brenda Grassel and Bob McCaslin.
“It’s an honor it is to serve as representatives of your city,” Towey said.
City staff served an integral part in ensuring the inaugural year for the quartet was an enriching and instructional one, despite the steep learning curve, the mayor said. Along with several other administrative employees, Towey singled out the help of City Clerk Chris Bainbridge – “a true professional and master at council meeting procedure” – Administrative Assistant Sue Passmore – “for her patience” – and Public Information Officer Carolbelle Branch – “who taught us how to respect media.”
“I want to thank the staff that helped us understand the legal and technical side of the issues,” Towey said.
Among the capital projects of 2011, Towey pointed to the completion of the Barker Bridge, the renovation of the Sullivan corridor and the launch of Discovery Park, a playground for kids of all abilities which celebrated a ribbon-cutting last May.
The list of infrastructure priorities also includes a concern for maintaining Spokane Valley’s 437 miles of roads, Towey added. While a 6-percent phone utility tax implemented in 2009 continues to generate around $3 million a year for road upkeep, Towey said there will be an ongoing requirement to secure funds to support the city’s street preservation program.
Attendees at the April 21 address were asked their opinion on road funding – as well as topics like a future City Hall and the construction of a new regional jail – by utilizing a small voting clicker, resembling a TV remote control. After Towey brought up a question on an overhead screen, a series of multiple-choice answers were shown. After 10 seconds of voting, the results were displayed.
When it came to the citizen response regarding the financing of street renovation, 60 percent of respondents last week favored the city studying the implementation of a $20 dollar car tab fee while 20 percent supported looking at Spokane County’s idea of a $45 tab. Another 20 percent voted to defer street maintenance, an approach that Towey said would cost the city more in the long run.
“For every $1 you spend to fix a street now, you’re going to spend $8 to $10 in the future on that same street,” he said.
As for the municipal budget, Towey said Spokane Valley is “financially in good condition…and stronger than many cities throughout the country.” The city continues to set a goal of maintaining a minimum general fund ending balance that represents 15 percent of the overall revenues, said Towey who invited citizens to attend a June 14 budget summit that will provide an overview of municipal finances.
“It will give residents a chance not only to see how the budget works but to see what categories your tax dollars are comprised of,” Towey said.
Along with promoting “local spending” and providing a healthy climate for new and existing businesses, Towey said the city would initiate its first economic development program since incorporating in 2003.
“In these times, it’s almost necessary,” he said.
Regional issues – including the proposed building of a new jail, consolidation of animal protection services and wastewater management – will continue to be of interest to Spokane Valley, Towey said. In the meantime, the mayor pointed out to the city’s work in developing programs to address bike and pedestrian opportunities as well as shoreline management.
In describing the city’s new Web site and a feature that provides citizens an opportunity to report code violations, potholes and snow clearing concerns online, Towey encouraged residents to bring up issues with their representatives at City Hall. The point was reiterated later in a question and answer period when a man in attendance told of a street in his neighborhood that remained clogged with snow for weeks.
“It’s not a bother to hear these concerns,” Towey said. “We want to know how we can help.”